Separated, Not Destroyed
While looking through the 1894 very fragile copy of The Freeman, I came across a column called Lost Relatives. There were many columns like this after the Civil War where people wrote hoping to find family members – mothers, brothers, sisters, children – that were sold away to other plantations. This column was written 29 years after the war and people were still hoping to find their loved ones. As my friend historian Paul Lee wrote:
The notices demonstrate that, though slavery inflicted lasting damage on black families by ruthlessly dividing them, it could not erase the love and loyalty that family members felt for one another — even after decades of separation.
The notices make clear that, through all of slavery’s horrors, many bondsmen and -women found reasons and ways to maintain their sense of familyhood, and acted upon it when freedom finally arrived.